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  • Sooners Handle Mistake-Prone Irish

    by John Vannie

    Oklahoma converted two pass interceptions into a 14-0 lead just three minutes into the contest and stayed in control the rest of the way for a 35-21 win at Notre Dame Stadium. The 4-0 Sooners used a productive running game and short, quick passes by Blake Bell to keep the Irish defense in chase mode all day. Notre Dame closed to within one score on three occasions, the last of which occurred one minute into the fourth quarter, but Oklahoma had an answer each time. Bell finished 22 for 30 for 232 yards and two touchdowns, while Tommy Rees was 9 of 24 for 109 yards and three interceptions for the Irish.

    Disaster struck on the opening series when Rees’ third down pass was tipped at the line by Eric Striker and fell into the hands of linebacker Corey Nelson. He returned it untouched for a 24-yard score just 49 seconds into the game. On the very next play from scrimmage, a Rees pass was deflected in the secondary, and Frank Shannon grabbed it for the Sooners. Damien Williams beat the Irish defense to the right corner of the end zone from 11 yards out and Oklahoma was staked to the 14-0 advantage in less than three minutes.

    The shell-shocked Irish responded by becoming more physical on defense and turning to the running game when they had the ball. Taurean Folston’s 36-yard run set up a six-yard pass to T.J. Jones late in the opening quarter that cut the deficit to 14-7. Notre Dame also began to integrate Andrew Hendrix into the offense to mix in some read-option runs. After a few successes, Oklahoma adjusted and a promising Irish drive ended when the Sooners correctly anticipated that Hendrix would keep the ball on third down.

    While its defense solidified, Notre Dame went on the march again midway through the second quarter. A reception by tight end Troy Niklas moved the Irish into the red zone with a chance to tie the game, but a poor, ill-advised throw into double coverage by Rees was picked off. The Sooners began an 88-yard drive that was aided by a no-helmet participation penalty against Notre Dame and a clutch third down scramble by Bell to get into scoring territory. Dropping back to pass from the Irish 26, Bell moved away from pressure in the pocket and found LaColtan Bestor for touchdown strike just before the half.

    Trailing 21-7, Notre Dame struck back in its first possession of the third quarter after the defense forced a three and out. George Atkinson burst through the left side on a well-blocked run and blazed past the Sooner defense for an 80-yard score. They could not hold onto momentum, however, as the Sooners returned the kickoff to midfield and Bell continued to chip away at them. His short passes to the flat found quick receivers who beat the Irish coverage all too frequently. Williams, Brennan Clay and Bell also ran the ball effectively, and backup quarterback Trevor Knight chipped in with a 30-yard romp when Bell had to leave due to leg cramps. Although the Sooners were only able to add two Mike Hunnicutt field goals during this stretch, they were sandwiched around a Notre Dame three and out.

    The Irish got back to running the ball with Atkinson as the third period came to a close. His success helped to set up an effective play action pass to Niklas, who was wide open at the ten yard line and waltzed in to complete a 30-yard score. Suddenly, Notre Dame was back in the game with 14:10 remaining and down by only 27-21. Unfortunately, Oklahoma had yet another answer. A mix of runs and short passes brought the Sooners near midfield, and Bell responded to a third down Irish blitz by throwing a quick ten yard strike over the middle to Sterling Shepard, who added 44 yards after the catch by leaving Notre Dame’s secondary in his wake. Bell and Shepard teamed up on the ensuing two point conversion, and the Sooners stretched their lead to 35-21 at the 12:24 mark.

    Notre Dame’s last gasp comeback attempts fizzled as Rees was one for eight in the team’s next three possessions. Without the threat of the run and play-action in the passing game, Oklahoma was able to blanket the Irish receivers. Notre Dame linebacker Ben Councell was ejected during the fourth quarter for a helmet to helmet (and completely unnecessary) hit on a Sooner receiver. Councell will have to sit out the first half of the next game against Arizona State.

    Credit for the win goes to the Oklahoma coaching staff, whose plan devised over their bye week was executed to perfection. Bell was mainly asked to throw short, safe passes and allow his quick receivers to do the rest. The Sooners also ran the ball well from both the tailback and quarterback positions, and achieved a balanced attack that yielded 216 yards rushing and 443 yards overall. The Irish had 231 yards rushing thanks in large part to Atkinson, but managed only 340 total yards.

    Let’s look at the answers to the pregame questions for additional insights.

    Will the retooled Sooner rushing defense hold up against the Irish offensive line? The Irish still gashed the Sooners when they were committed to the run, but this didn’t happen consistently throughout the day.

    Can Notre Dame’s receivers get separation from Oklahoma’s talented defensive backs? Rees threw into coverage on more than a few occasions, but these were typically in situations where Oklahoma knew a pass was coming. Irish receivers were much more accessible when the Sooners had to respect the run.

    Which team will get an early jump on its opponent? I think you know the answer to this one.

    Will the Irish be able to pressure and effectively contain Bell? Notre Dame did a fair job and was physical throughout the day, but the Sooner speed and quickness enabled their staff to exploit Irish weaknesses.

    Which team will convert opportunities into touchdowns in the red zone? Both team converted most of their chances, but Rees’ second quarter interception at the Oklahoma 12 was very costly.

    Will Irish fans get to wave their green pom-poms or will they become as useful as Chia pets? Only prior to the opening kickoff and upon Atkinson’s long touchdown run. They were nowhere in sight during the long and depressing fourth quarter.

    The 3-2 Irish must now pull themselves together and take on two PAC-12 opponents before a midterm break. Arizona State will meet Notre Dame in Dallas in the annual Shamrock Series game, followed by a home game against rival USC. These teams also feature plenty of speed in their attack, so there is work to do for Bob Diaco’s troops. Meanwhile, the offensive coaches must decide to employ the running game to set up the pass, instead of the wrongheaded inverse strategy that has failed miserably against the better teams on the schedule.

    62 Responses to “Sooners Handle Mistake-Prone Irish”

    1. In effect, Notre Dame has NO backup QB.

    2. There is not one thing that Rees does better than Hendrix . . . not one; why is Kelly married to that kid?

      He is awful and has been all year long. Every team is stacking the box and daring that kid to beat them and he can’t He never could; he has been a weak link since he got to South Bend. The kid would not start fo my alma mater, Grand Valley State University, why is he starting at Notre Dame over highly recruited and much more talented Andrew Hendrix.

      That is two losses Rees has personally cost this team this year alone, to say nothing of the previous three years.

      At this point coaching is the issue. Rees over Hendrix is something that anyone’s eyes can see is a mistake. The two are not even in the same league and Rees is never going to give you a chance against an elite program. Hendrix at least has the physical tools to give you hope.

      I love Kelly and Martin, but going with Rees was a mistake and akin to throwing in the towel on the season. That kid would not start for nearly any other D-I program and, as noted above, would not start at an elite D-II program.

      Having said that, the other parts of the offense are very encouraging. I think this team will be much better next year when the defense has a bit of experience and the worst starting QB I have ever seen at ND is no longer taking snaps.

      • Did you ever see Arnaz Battle or Carlyle Holiday start at QB for Notre Dame? I’m not in love with Rees but I’m guessing your answer is no.

    3. Is mastering the playbook the be all and end all of being a quarterback? Can’t believe that on the bench there isn’t some talent worth giving a chance when the effort on the field is inept.

    4. Mark napierkowski says:

      That was brutal. We’ve given up 41 and 35 points, respectively, to our two toughest opponents so far. Purdue got demolished at home by Northern Illinois today. We are an average team with good but unoroductive talent, below average coaching, and below average leadership. But as bizarre as it sounds, there remains only one ranked team on our schedule the rest of the way, and 9-3 is within reach, as log as we realize that we have to run the ball for 75% of our snaps the rest of the season. Our defense has 3 sacks in 5 games and can’t get a stop. Gotta possess the ball and play keep-away. It’s not Kelly-ball, but it’s what must be done with Rees at QB. We’re incredibly limited at that position.

      • The defense was producing stops yesterday. The problem is that for every key stop, Capt Turnover served up a pick. The problem was not on the D yesterday.

    5. Let’s close the book on Tommy Rees. And the O-Line.

    6. There was some positives to take from this game, running was solid, and defense played a lot tougher.Tommy Reese needs to go, break in Malik Zaire at two losses he is the spark this offense needs. I like Tommy but he just doesn’t have it.

    7. Time to try our freshman QB. Is he done with his mono yet?

    8. DavId M Couture says:

      Dispite a subpar performance ND could have won. Brian kellys horrible play callingis one for the record
      books. When your moving the ball on the ground easily why get cute. Plasy calling stinks

    9. Looks like the Irish did not find the answers at practice last week.

    10. NOT SURPRISED BY THE OUTCOME OF THIS GAME! This has been going on for three games now!
      1. Slow start….AGAIN!
      2. Out coached….AGAIN!!
      3. Unorganized on Offense…..AGAIN!!
      4. Defense suspect at best….AGAIN!!!!
      5. No leadership on Offense….AGAIN!!
      6. A game we should have won. But beat ourselves….AGAIN!!!

    11. Excellent post by Dirty. Agree with everything said. Hendrix has put his time in and deserved more than a few quarters of play over his career. Rees now has three games with 3 interceptions in each game. He repeatedly gets chances to prove himself and simply is nothing more than a club level quarterback. Yet Hendrix gets spot or mop-up duty and nothing more. I listened to the boos directed at Tommy. And more than that, the sighs of fans wondering if the kid will ever graduate because that seems to be the only way to keep him off the field. The resignation of the fans watching a team and program seemingly now going in reverse was palpable. Give Hendrix the ball the rest of the season and see what he can do. It will likely energize the team and fans now that the team is realistically only playing for a Gator or Liberty Bowl appearance. Don’t burn Malik’s red shirt year.
      The defense is reverting to its form in the first under the lights game against Michigan – out of position and incapable of playing the ball in the air. There is talent on the team but still not enough speed at linebacker.
      This game is on the coaches – both for the on-field coaching and the personnel decisions. And for anyone who assumes Rees must be better than Hendrix and that is why he is starting, John Huarte sat on the bench until a different coach saw that he was the one that should be on the field. There is no loss in which Rees played where the result was not tied directly to him. Sorry but someone else deserves to play. He has had his multiple chances and shown he is not up to the task.

    12. While I get the frustration, we should be careful to direct it at the highly paid adult and not the student. As a student and future alum, Rees will always be part of the Notre Dame family. He deserves respect for that. Brian Kelly may eventually be a legend, but he just as likely will be another guy that warmed Rockne’s chair.

      • No, put the blame where it is due. In two big time games this season, Rees has thrown 5 interceptions. He is not a gamer. And, I wonder where is Mayock’s love for Rees this season?

    13. All three interceptions are all, or partially on Tommy. Didn’t pick up the blitz on the first one even though it was not disguised, throw behind the receiver and in to coverage on the second pick and third picks. Understand Kelly being loyal to Tommy but not to the sacrifice of the season and his fellow teamates. Step up or step out of the starter role!


    15. martinjordan says:

      1. The play calling was awful. Why didn’t we pound it from the beginning?
      2. Rees’ limitations – weak, inaccurate arm, immobility, and decision making were on full display.
      3. The Andrew Hendrix package was worthless.
      4. I’d like to see Zaire but only if he’s 100% healthy. It takes time to fully recover from mono.
      5. Everett Golson is in California working with QB guru George Whitfield.
      6. How did we follow up Atkinson’s 80 yard run? We gave up a 50 yard kickoff return.
      7. The defense couldn’t get off the field when it mattered.
      8. Blake Bell was average and made the defense look good at times with poor throws.
      9. I don’t think that team speed was as big an issue as Mayock made it out to be. ND’s mistakes were.
      10. This was a very winnable game and does not bode well for the remainder of the season – 7-5 or 8-4 are real possibilities.

    16. Kelly is never going to get it done here at ND. He’s in his fourth year, coaching staff intact, great recruiting classes, and at this point our offense has no identity, defense has taken a major step backwards, and the special teams that he is suppose to be coaching this year are once again terrible.” WE are still a work in progress” is really getting old.

    17. Mark napierkowski says:

      Rees is not the disaster most people think. 10 TD’s and 5 picks this year. Yes, he’s subpar, but he’s not why we got lit up by Michigan. Two of his three picks today were bad decisions, so I’ll give you that. The defense is horribly overrated. Diaco was totally protected last year by Manti Teo, who was even more important to this team than anyone thought. We have 4 sacks in 5 games. That’s why good teams are lighting us up. It’s not just Tommy. BK does not have what it takes to coach at this level. Great coaches don’t have to keep reminding us that “I’ve been a head coach for 23 years.” Stoops, Meyer, and Saban don’t need that rhetoric. They have hardware to do their talking. You people who think this is a QB-only problem don’t know what you’re talking about.

      • In every big game that Rees has ever played in at ND, THEY HAVE LOST!! Please explain that, since you’re such a genius who knows what he’s talking about.

    18. A very predictable loss. My prediction might come true. I said prior to the season that Rees would be replaced by Zaire in mid October. Hendrix? Every time he came in yesterday was the same old qb sneak (which really wasn’t a sneak). Running game was exciting. Defense is slowly improving, but still not good enough to scare any top flight program. Let’s face it, this is not a very good team and might drop out of the rankings for the remainder of the season. I hope that Kelly’s contract extension doesn’t equal a return to mediocrity, I hope, I hope.

    19. Don’t know if ASU beat USC, but they were leading when I went to bed at halftime. ASU will be a tougher out than Oklahoma next weekend.

    20. Commenters have it right. Rees is a good kid who is doing the best he can. Unfortunately, he simply does not have the talent to be a starting QB at ND or any other elite D1 program. Biggest problem is that he is a one-dimensional QB in an era when that places the team at a distinct disadvantage against other top teams, since all of them have two dimensional QBs. He also has a maddening tendency to try to force passes that are just not there. Rees could easily have thrown a couple of additional interceptions yesterday. Totally unacceptable for a senior QB. All of this should be obvious to the coaching staff. The third INT yesterday was probably the worst of all, as it resulted in a 10- point swing towards the end of the half, as we were working our way back into the game. Down 14-10 instead of 21-7, the game could well have had a different outcome. Play calling has been poor all year, although yesterday it was a little better. Actually, the worst play call yesterday was a defensive call to blitz the Bell on a third and 3 when the D line had been fairly stout. The result was poor coverage and the last Oklahoma TD which sealed the deal.

    21. Post game press comment quote from Kelly -“I wanted to line up in 2 tight ends and run the football and be able to throw play action off it”. So why wait until the second half to really do it? Sure, we were able to put 2 TE into the boundary and break Folston one time, but did you see OK adjust? Slide that way and play press to the open side of the field – which we can’t beat over the top. But you can if you run horizontal routes you can. We saw some, but not enough, of that. Say what you want about a certain coach now residing in Lawrence, KS, but he was smart enough to run a long haired, marginal Cubs pitcher successfully across the middle. No, I don’t want him back, but occasionally he had some good ideas that Kelly might want to look at.

    22. Agree Tommy Rees does not have all the skills and God given talents it takes to be a first class starter in big time college football, but we shouldn’t be bashing him. He has won many games for ND and last year would have been less than stellar were it not for his closing performances when Gholson was struggling. He has worked hard, been a TEAM player but it is probably time to replace him, but who should that be?

    23. Maybe Rees has something on Kelly or he just loves the kid that much. Even at press conference, he was talking about wrong routes not blocking, shifting blame. Defense cannot get stops. Tough to watch. Hoping Kelly isn’t a fraud. Time to mix in some new guys for experience.

    24. I had the Irish a 9-3 for the year and that may be pushing it the way his team is playing. Play calling is horrible and defense is just lousy. To many to’s in 2 loses so far. Where is the 60 minute game so far?

    25. Time to look at Diaco. His defense looks poorly coached, and he is slow to make adjustments. Time for Kelly to shake up his staff.

    26. Ouch. We’ve performed poorly against our two ranked opponents this year. 6-6 now seems a real possibility this year, I hate to say. Come on Irish, pick it up!

    27. 4th year as head coach and Irish are digressing instead of progressing under Kelly. Loss of Golson no excuse. Sooners also with out their starting QB from last year and started a QB starting in his first collegiate away game and ND made him look like a pro. Kelly has not developed one QB in 4 years. 8 returning starters from last years #1 D and they still look like the Keystone Cops in coverage and there is no pressure on opposing qb’s.
      At least two more losses to AZ State and Stanford and BYU could be doubtful.
      Start packing for the Sun Bowl. What a fall in less than year! Once again ND duped into rewarding a head coach with an extension after one good year and then the program falls to pieces. When will they ever learn?

    28. We can moan and groan about Tommy all we want (and I will get to that in a second) but when you look at our 2 losses to quality opponents what stands out is what Kelly has said…..way to many errors. In the MI game we are -2 in turnovers and had several critical penalties. In the OK game we are -3 in turnovers and had something like 8 penalties for 100 yards. Everyone knows you can’t win games against quality teams with that many errors.

      Coming into this season the expectation was that the defense would be solid and continue on the progress they made last year…..sadly that just hasn’t happened. The loss of Kap,Teo, and Zeke were huge not only in that they were the middle of a stout defense but because they were the leaders and the IQ of the defense making sure everyone was in position. Teo was an eraser last year being all over the field and having the 6 INT (which is unreal for a MLB). We played a lot of zone last year which covered up for the inexperience of the secondary. This year we are trying to play man more and it is killing us. The loss of Spond has been huge as well because he sealed the edge wonderfully and could cover TE and RB in the flat.

      Coming into this year the thinking was the D would be good to great and a game manager SR QB like Tommy could guide us a to 10 win type season if he limited the turnovers. Well both assumptions have not panned out….the D has been inconsistent and can’t tackle in space. Tommy has played well at times but the INTs in the two losses just can’t happen if we want to beat good teams.

      I think they need to go back to playing more zone and hope that Tuitt gets into shape and back to his former self and that we get Day back soon as well. The defections on the DL are really starting to hurt now as we should have 2 other top DE that are gone so are really pretty thin beyond the starters. All hope with the LB core lies with the young guys as the 2 5th year guys are just not athletic enough to be starters. I would like to see more 4-3 with Tuitt and Ishaq on the edges with Nixx and Day inside then mix Shembo with the two young linebackers and only use Fox/Carlo in short yardage/goal line packages.

      I say seeing that the good D/game manager QB scenario is not working give Hendrix a shot or go to the Freshman and bring him along using Reese as a relief valve like they did with Golson last year. Kelly keeps saying Hendrix is ready to run the entire play book…..well give him the chance. Other teams live with inaccurate QBs (MI and OK) and get production why can’t we. Hendrix does run the zone read very well as almost every time yesterday I couldn’t tell if he kept or handed off. Also on the RBs I hate the rotations. RB need carries to get in rhythm just like QBs. This constant shuttling is stupid. GA3 is looking better and Folston is a beast…again other teams go with freshman running backs and make it work so make someone the starter and let that guy get the lions share of the touches, but most of all let the guys play for a series or so to get a rhythm. We really have a tremendous amount of depth, diversity, and talent at the skilled positions but need to settle on some go to guys and live with it.

      I still think this team can improve and develop…..we are not losing because a lack of talent or depth but because of errors and miscues. These things can be corrected and this will be a test of Kelly’s coaching ability as much as anything. The next 2 weeks are going to determine if this is still a 9-10 win season or something more like 7-8…..I don’t even want to hear about a BCS as we are nowhere near capable of playing in a BCS…..Arizona State is going to be tough but coming off the big win against USC last night as well as WI a few weeks back maybe they will be ready for a letdown.

    29. Why is offense so hard for ND? Why does coach Kelly run a spread without throwing dink-and-dunk passes like OK? I don’t think it’s only that the receivers aren’t fast enough or that they’re not good at running routes, but the type of routes the offensive scheme dictates make no sense! Look at a passing play and you’ll see 3 or 4 receivers running up-routes or ones that take 3-4 seconds to complete with their back to the ball; I don’t remember Kelly’s offense being so complicated at Cincy. Drives seem to be almost impossible to sustain, as if passing against college secondaries is so hard, lol. The defense doesn’t seem to be able to get an opposing O off the field; Ok’s QB really can’t throw the ball down the field, so what you do is cover tight and force him to throw down the field, just like they do with ND, but is seems this bend-don’t-break scheme is the law; I’m sick of seeing free dink-and-dunk routes for 4-7 yards whenever opposing Os feel so inclined. Worse than anything else, is QB’s getting rushed and scampering down the field for 15 yards 5 times/game on 3rd down, you’d think Diaco would account for that, but I guess the D is too slow. The nose tackle is supposedly the best in the country, but he comes back from an offseason of coming within one game of a national championship a fat slob that can hardly move. Tuitt is overweight as well, and too many players don’t know their responsibilities on their zone coverages, hence the bad angle on 3rd and 5 that allowed OK to score a 50 yd TD when the Irish were trying to come back in the 4th Qtr. Last year the D was a lot better, but showed vs. AL that it still had a lot of gaps, and Rees’ vulnerability this year on O gives you a extra 2 turnovers to overcome per game. Hendrix can’t really throw the ball, and he doesn’t have much lateral speed, and with Kelly’s offense being so schematically ineffective, you’d probably have a lot of 3’n outs still. I think Kelly thinks he’s untouchable and his arrogance makes him think he doesn’t have to be creative or inspire his players to play with more passion and creativity. ND FB is like a broken record over the past 20 years, ever since Paulus came in; just going through the motions and not developing players or improving team speed, offensive creativity or real competitors who want to get better every season. You basically have a bereaucratic administration with a coach who thinks he’s part of a political party, and can’t produce consistent results, but thinks he has to constantly campaign. Kelly’s had 4+ years and seems to have returned to year 2, and I dont see any improvement on team speed.

    30. Can we have Aaron Lynch back?

    31. Makes you wonder how many championships we’d have if ND was able to forgive George O’Leary for his resume transgression…No question about his coaching prowess.

    32. Mark napierkowski says:

      Scott, do some homework before you throw accusations around. I’m no genius, but Rees rescued ND last year against Michigan, Stanford, and Purdue. He threw the winning TD pass against Michigan in 2011 with 30 seconds left, but the defense collapsed by giving up an 80 yard TD drive in the final few seconds. He was 8 for 8 in the winning drive at Pitt that same year. He came in his freshman year and put us in position to win the Tulsa game, throwing for 300 yards in the second half alone after crist was hurt, but Kelly blew it by not kicking a FG. He almost won the south Florida debacle in 2011. He’s made many mistakes, and he’s not a great QB, but he’s the best Kelly thinks we have. Or are you smarter than our head coach? I trust that at least Kelly knows what he has and doesn’t have.

      • He also served up a pick in that Pitt game in 2011 right in front of me that, if thrown earlier was a TD for sure to Eiffert. And, we’re talking about Pitt who was barely over .500 that season as well and ND barely won, 15-12, as the defense was able to stall Pitt’s last ditch effort at midfield. Also, not to mention, sir, Jonas Gray had a 79-yd TD scamper into the end zone, in front of where I was sitting.

        Now, let’s get back to the 2011 Michigan game. With ND up 24-7 at thr beginning of the 4th quarter, I seem to remember that it was Rees’s “heroics” that cost them the lead.

        Do you remember when he balled up like a little wuss and fell to the ground against USC in 2011? When do you ever remember another ND QB doing that?

        I suppose you seem to forget that he accounted for OVER 50% of ND’s 2011 turnovers (19 to be exact).

        How about those facts?

    33. Tommy Rees is suffering because of the type of offense that ND continues to run. The 5 wide receiver set does not bode well for Tommy. We are telling the defense that we are going to pass without even giving the defense the possibility that we could run. The defense knows that Tommy can’t run so its pretty easy to defend. Tommy Rees strengths come from a power run game, and play action type passes that utilize his abilities. We had the most effective drives when we ran the ball straight ahead and did the play action pass to Troy where he was wide open. Our offense needs to be reconstructed to this or we will continue to lose games. Tommy will continue to turn the ball over and be ineffective because he is not comfortable in shotgun passing with no running back. I am also not impressed with our defense and the defensive coaches. Some of Kelly’s statements and this whole scenario is reminding me of Charlie Weis all over again. Say it isn’t so.

    34. Kelly has done a pathetic job coaching the team stating with the bowl loss. We can never overlook 12-0 but without that season just based on what we are seeing after four years one might ask if it were not time to think he too is not really up to the task of coaching here. Starting with the bowl game the team:
      Has not come out prepared
      Has played poorly on defense
      If completely predictable to the point where you can guess the play at least 89% of the time–at least
      Has had not real consistency
      Has not developed younger players
      Truth be told with the exception of a few players all the big players last year and some still this year( Calabrese and Fox) are CW recruits

      TRees is extremely limited and truth be told he is NOT a D 1 QB. Plain and simple there are many QBs at unranked programs that are all better than him. He really offers nothing at all. I dont fault him–that is who he is — I fault Kelly for:
      Not developing anyone else–4 years now with no real back up??? or with him as the main backup ??
      Running empty backfield sets over and over–when the QB can run or roll out the play is telegraphed too easily
      at least against Okla when we were running great, a running back in the backfield with play action freezes linebackers, blitzes, safeties etc. with a classic Kelly empty backfield the defense know it is a throw and can do whatever it wants to defend–blitz, drop back whatever

      Special teams are inconsistent and for the most part pathetic–after four years.
      In close games they play a major part of the game and we never get a play from special teams
      Kelly simply is doing a very bad job and seldom accepting responsibility–he is not a good coach

      • Much of what you’ve said I agree with. However, I’d like to add to your comment about him not accepting responsibility by indicating how he does this. When interviewed, he always directly or indirectly implies that these players are in the process of being developed and that we’re working hard to improve their skills. The implication here is that the failures on the field are the result of these players not having reached their potential. While it is true that coaching has the goal of developing player potential it is inappropriate to excuse one’s coaching failures because ofthe “process”, a word he often uses. And as some have already indicated this “process” has been going on for close to 4 years. Intertwined with this “development process” is his inability to allow the innate ability of his players to flourish. In other words he seems to be too much of a controlling type individual who knows best. This attitude, I believe, is what limits player performance and, further, does not allow him to use athletic freshman players, who, he thinks, he needs to mold. In my opinion, one of the crucial things he hasn’t learned as a coach is that many great and very excellent athletes only need the coach to create a system, help them learn the system and technique,then get out of the way while creating the SPIRIT environment necessary to win. This means AFFIRMING, not always implying he’s got such a weight on his shoulders trying to constantly develop this raw talent that he has. In other words, a great coach does not see himself as the center but rather an enabler of the talent he has been entrusted with. One way he can do this is to trust more some of the untested athletic talent he has.

    35. irishhawk50 says:

      I am disapointed like everyone else, but Notre Dame is not a bad team. Take away the first two minutes and you have a game. ND is not a top 10 team, but I think it will be a top 25 when all is said and done. No doubt Golsen would have made a difference and this has the feel of a rebuilding year, but there are a lot of the pieces here to make a strong program for the coming years. I have suffered through many decades of Notre Dame football, but I think they are on the right path. That being said I still think Kelly & his coaches need to do a better job. Most of the criticisms here on this post appear valid. They just can’t seem to make all the pieces fit. I will keep my fingers crossed. Go Irish.

    36. After all the unnecesary vitriol after this loss, I remember we did the same againdt Oklahoma in their home last year. And we own them over most of the last 50 years.

    37. So, the QB is slow and not talented, but he is courageous. Nevertheless, It is past the time that Kelly gives up the ghost; there will be no flowering of Tommy Reese.
      Run!Run! Run! and throw to the margines. I count three good running back who can throw if need be.

      Let’s have some fun: Go Irish.
      Jack McGee

    38. Michael Scott says:

      I’m a casual fan,not an expert on the game, but it seems to me that George Atkinson’s speed is wasted on all those runs between the tackles. Wouldn’t it make more sense to get him outside on sweeps and pitchouts?

      • His 80-yd run was just off tackle up the middle. I do see what you are saying, though. However, I don’t think that he is such a great lateral runner as his speed is more north-to-south.

    39. I just need to challenge some of the things being said here……I heard Kelly taking plenty of responsibility for the poor performance of the team in yesterdays post game presser….he said directly the teams errors and lack of 1st half mojo was on him…so how is that not taking responsibility.

      Also to the player development critics…..we have already played what like 10+ freshman this season? Last year we had multiple freshman in the secondary playing big rolls and he milked a redshirt freshman QB thru an undefeated season.

      I know it feels like we are moving backwards when compared to last years great season, but is it Kelly’s fault that Golsen cheated and got kicked out of school? Is it his fault that Spond has the chronic migraine condition and didn’t want to jeopardize his long term health by playing another year? Is it his fault Tuitt had hernia surgery and is starting the season over weight and out of game shape? Is it his fault that 2 top flight DE defected because they wanted to go play closer to home (FL an CA)? Not really and with the leadership loss of guys like Kap, Teo, and Zeke on the defense it is somewhat understandable we are were we are….

      Teams evolve and improve. I think back to Kelly’s first year which was just full of one setback after another (on and off the field) yet the team kept playing hard and when we were 4-5 the defense came together and they won 4 in a row including our first win over USC in what like 8 years and only our second bowl victory since Lou left. So I think after last year Kelly deserves a little consideration. Let’s see what happens. We get another chance to improve by playing a good and ranked ASU team Saturday and if we win that we could get on a roll and be sitting at 9-2 going into Stanford. Kelly has upgraded out program considerably with better recruiting, better player development and depth and speed. We don’t really have a BCS caliber QB this year with Golsen sitting so 8 or 9 wins and a bowl win would be a good season by all accounts.

    40. Listening to Kelly in his press conferences he makes me think of the white house press secretary. Kelly can put the spin on anything but facts are facts and he is in over his head. Gran Valley is his level and where he needs to be.

    41. A response to CJW’s “challenge”. Your lst paragraph states that Kelly, in his presser accepted
      responsibility for no mjo, etc. Then, in the 3rd paragraph, you excuse him because of all the things which befell the team – Golson, etc.
      I looked at a summary of his Sunday notebook. In defense of Rees he acknowledged that the latter made mistakes but also that the young receivers didn’t run precise routes, etc. Again, the innuendo is always these guys are young and developing. They aren’t where they need to be. It’s a work in process. His comment in relation to the players” confusion not singing the alma mater after a loss is that this rule was instituted to protect the players and that they needed to be in the lcoker room under his “guidance”. This smacks of his controlling, inhibiting mentality rather than an enabling one, which promotes spirit and grit in the face of defeat. The players should be out there with the student body experiencing the loss with their supporters and feeling their support in a down moment.
      The point is, that it is his fault that they are not where they need to be. He has not coached them up.
      They have played at a mediocre level this year. The play calling is predictable and sometimes aweful, the defense, although improving, has regressed. He seems not able to make the necessary adjustments (note the need to call crossing routes in the Michigan State game rather than a constant barrage of inept sideline passes, often out of bounds). In the Oklahoma game, given Rees for quarterback, he needed to install the running game from the get go, setting up the passing game off the run. That he immediately went to the pass, and the resultant turnovers, is on him.
      Finally, without getting into the details of developing a cohesive spirit, let me say that a team without a quality quarterback at this level is just another team. THE QUARTERBACK IS THE KEY PERSON ON THE PLAYING FIELD. Tommy Rees has done some really good things for this team. It is evident to all that he is a very good back-up quarterback and someone who understands this role and supports the team when placed in that situation (as last year). The obvious decision for Coach Kelly is to play Malik – a highly recruited, multi threat guy. However, in Kelly’s eyes is he not ready or he wants to redshirt him for availability down the road? If it’s the former, than again we have Kelly’s penchant for OVER controlling the development process. If it is the latter, then we must state no one knows what the future brings in terms of Golson, recruitment etc. KELLY AS THE HEAD COACH BEARS THE RESPONSIBILITY FOR WINNING NOW. HE NEEDS TO MAKE A QUARTERBACK CHANGE. MALIK ZAIRE SHOULD BE GIVEN THAT CHANCE. The team needs a change of pace, A shot in the arm. Such a move could create the emotion needed to change the season around. My hope is that he reverses his decision.

      • Well I won’t argue with you on the QB statement as I pretty much said the same thing in that Reese is not a BCS level QB. I too would like to see Malik, lets remember to this point he has been unavailable due to mono, but I wonder if that is really a factor as Kelly seems dead set on red shirting him no matter what. Given that if Golsen returns he will have 3 years of eligibility remaining and that Malik may grow tired of waiting and end up transferring (like two other top QB recruits under Kelly) I really think he should play the kid….get him the experience and then if Golsen comes back in the spring they can have a spirited competition. If Golsen doesn’t come back we are screwed in that Malik will still have no experience and maybe Hendrix comes back for a 5th year and maybe he doesn’t but either way he will not be a viable starter. Admittedly, this has been my biggest disappointment in that Kelly is supposed to be a QB guru and did great things with several lesser talents as Cinci. He has invested way to much in Reese for 4 years now and it is annoying and disappointing. He never really gave Crist a chance (not the chances he gave Reese or even Montana), he hasn’t really given Hendrix a chance, he didn’t give Kiel a chance……all these kids were 4 or 5 star recruits and they have been wasted for the unspectacular Reese.

        I too put this lack of QB development on him and the staff…..I mean other programs put young talented guys out there and put them in a situation to succeed. Kelly constantly claims they are not ready…..other programs put athletic inaccurate passers out there (ummm both MI and OK this year) and design offenses around them to win…..Kelly won’t give Hendrix a chance when I think we did quite fine when Tony Rice ran an option offense and went 24-1 in his two years as the man. I am not sure what Kelly is ‘afraid’ of in that you get horrible production from Reese and 3 turnovers so honestly how is Hendrix or Malik going to give you worse than that?

        So see I am not a totally happy camper….I do think the team has suffered so tough breaks in the off season and I do think that has to lower expectations, but I would still like to see this team and evolve and improve and I am still withholding judgment on Kelly’s coaching until the season is over. He has done some good things here including our best season in 20 years and vastly improved recruiting. Let’s also remember all the high profile guys we have wanted in the past 3 hires have wanted nothing to do with ND…..all of them. So in some ways Kelly was the best option this last hire and it seems the only way we are going to find the next legendary coach is to take a flier on someone less known/experienced but up and coming (kind of like Ara) and just get lucky because Stoops, Urban, Saban, or any other top tier coach doesn’t want this job!

        • “…because Stoops, Urban, Saban, or any other top tier coach doesn’t want this job!”

          You’re right there. However, (minus Stoops) this is because they wouldn’t be able to recruit the same type of “athlete” that they can now at their respective schools. At ND, recruits are held to a different standard. So, if you are going to add this point to the discussion, include the real reason why. Saban would not excel at ND given the standards, and he knows it. Meyer knew it in 2004 as well, so he chose Florida instead. Personally, I like Stoops and think that he would be the only one who could do well at ND. However, I think he is pretty content in Norman.

        • “He never really gave Crist a chance (not the chances he gave Reese or even Montana)…”

          From Wikipedia about Dayne Crist:

          “…the Jayhawks failed to win a game after labor day, and a significant reason for the poor season was the play of Crist, who finished the season with the worst Quarterback rating in NCAA Division 1A (ranked 116 out of 116 qualifying quarterbacks).”

          Explain to you why Crist was never given a chance? How about him failing to push the ball into the endzone on 4th and G against Navy? Forgetting the fumbled snap against USC in 2011 which was returned 96 yards for a touchdown? And you’re wonder why this kid was not given more of a chance in Kelly’s system?

    42. Very disappointing. We’ve now lost our last three “big” games by double digits starting with Alabama. So this is progress? And you give up 35 point and 450 yds of offense on your home turf? If there was real progress ND should have won at least one of those games.

      Losses to Az St. and Stanford are almost a given based on Saturday’s performance. USC is in a state of disarray with the firing of Kiffin, so ND might be able to squeak out a 3 point win against them.

      The superfans and eternal apologists can longer blame talent disparity as ND’s last several recruiting classes are equal to or better than Oklahoma’s. This falls squarely on the inability of the coaches to prepare and motivate the team. It’s time Kelly, Diaco and Martin quit fantasizing about which NFL teams (in the case of Kelly) or college schools (Diaco, Martin) will come calling after the season and focus on this team.

    43. the last few recruiting classes aren’t as good as you all remember…because of so many defections…how good would this team look if we had: Lynch, Tee, Darby, Greenberry, Kiel, Eddie V, Anzalone…I know some of these guys weren’t ever “enrolled”…but this is starting to come home to roost. Plus you have to point out the loss of Spond and Golson. I believe we have a depth issue. Should be an interesting 24 months.

    44. Joe Schaefer '59 Universal City TX says:

      The back and forth reminds me of the ’52 Oklahoma game, which I attended. All day long it was Oklahoma with long run or pass plays (largely because of the ball-hiding skill of Eddie Crowder and the speed of Billy Vessels) and Notre Dame grinding it out to even the score. Our quarterback then (Guglielmi) was a better passer than the current edition; however, Leahy knew he couldn’t match Oklahoma’s speed and quickness, so he just grinded it out, using Heap, Lattner, and Worden. Then, the break that tough teams create, Dan Shannon hitting the kick-off receiver (Larry Grigg, one of the “scatbacks”, the other being Jack Ging, yes, that Jack Ging) after Notre Dame’s touchdown. (The score was OU 21-20) Notre Dame recovered on the OU 15 and Lattner took it in for a 27-21 lead with over 13 minutes to go in the game. The defense played inspired football. I don’t see inspiration on this team. Too many distractions?

      A footnote: The Friday night pep rally in the old fieldhouse guest speaker was Mel Allen, one of the leading sportscasters of the time. After heaping praises after praises on the Notre Dame Spirit, he closed with: “…My proudest moment in sports came when I could say that Kelly and Epstein made the tackle for Notre Dame.”

      Notre Dame is spirit not a brand. Joe Schaefer SJHS ’55 ND ’59 Universal City TX

    45. The defense gave up 28 points.. not very tough! As observers, I don’t see anything we can hang our hats on regarding the defense.

      Regarding the Rees’ interceptions though. The first one was on a sack that forced a fumble/duck pass- not his fault really. The second one, sure maybe Daniels ran the wrong route, but don’t you need to see that as a QB? He just isn’t accurate enough though overall, and that is the main problem.

      But you can’t just throw the freshman QB in and write off the season, as some are suggesting. What they need to do is give defenses a heavier dose of Hendrix. Make them prepare for both, as Rees is just not accurate enough. The running game will open up with Hendrix and those two-tight sets, and we need this running game to chew up clock, because our defense is VERY pedestrian.

      On a side-note, I am very frustrated with these helmet-to-helmet targeting penalties in both college and pro. I can understand the penalty and ejection if the guy spears a defenseless player by completely lowering his helmet and ramming the other guy’s head. That is not what happened with Councell. Maybe I’m wrong, but it seemed like he simply put his facemask on the ball in order to dislodge it. Isn’t that how kids are taught? Maybe I can see the penalty because we want to be safer, but to eject the guy and have him miss half of the next week’s game for making what has always been a common football play is beyond ridiculous. The other problem with this whole deal is that defenders are starting to put their necks in bad positions in order for their helmet not to be involved. Collinsworth pointed this out on Sunday Night Football..

      • We are not suggesting that you write the season off by playing Malik. If he has the athletic skills that his press clippings say he has and he is healthy, like many other freshman QBS(Johnny Manziel was one), he could, with his mult threat talent, give this team the spark it needs. Having said that, however, your suggestion about developing a heavier dose of Hendrix is a good one and should be introduced if, as BK has indicated, Malik is not going to play.

      • What about a QB in Florida named Jamison Winston… he is a freshman and seems to be doing pretty well there in his first season at game speed. I do not see where putting in Malik this year will hurt anything.

    46. Rees is not a FBS level QB and he wasn’t highly recruited for a reason, but he is, and always will be, a Golden Domer. He’s done the best he can and unfortunately that’s just not good enough. The real question is why has Kelly not modified the offense to help him out (a blocking back/fullback to facilitate the ground game, more 2 TE sets, etc.)? Why was there no plan B developed/put into place after Golson was expelled? He knew Rees’ limitations. The question also needs to be asked why kids who are committed/signed to ND continue to leave so frequently because if Kiel was still at ND, he would be starting right now (although I am leery of someone who decides to leave before even competing in spring ball). Finally, what decent coach in his fourth season still has atrocious special teams that have regressed every year of his tenure? His limited offensive creativity and shortcomings got him by at Grand Valley St., Central Michigan, Cincy, etc., but I think the ND stage is a little too big for him.